Consequences vs. fun

I recently dropped out of a Demon: the Fallen campaign, because I disliked the way the GM handled the game. I had only played in the campaign twice, but as the story ended, I opted to drop out. Why? Because the way the GM handled the game goes against everything I find enjoyable in role playing games.

I respect that their fun differs from mine. I spoke to him about it, and I didn’t want to “change their fun”, so I politely withdrew from the game.

“What went wrong?” you might ask. There was a number of things that “went wrong”, as in “I did not find it enjoyable”. The biggest baddie was his focus on consequence.

I believe all experienced gamers has met this kind of GM, the GM that consistently punish players because of their choices. They often think that their punishment is reasonable, and it would “break the immersion” if it wasn’t doled out.

I’m particularly referring to an episode that ended with a, to me, pointless character death. One player saved an NPC werewolf, tied up in silver chains, from some ghouls with assault rifles. He untied the werewolf, and asked why they had captured him, and why they had tortured him so. During the conversation, the player told the werewolf he was demon. The result? The werewolf immediately attacked the player’s character, killing him in two or three blows.

My first thought was that I would never play under this GM again. I spend too much time working on my characters for them to be killed for such a petty reason. What did this death achieve? Nothing at all. It wasn’t meaningful, it wasn’t fun and it certainly wasn’t logical. The player seemed a bit sad too, but no one said anything.

Even though I sat there, three hours straight, without being involved in the game, because the GM failed to involve my character meaningfully in his carefully crafted plot with a predetermined outcome, this made me cringe the most. Without any obvious reason, without any explanation, without any need, with no consent from the player, with no regard for what would make the game more fun for everyone; the GM just killed the character. A character that had been in the game for, I think, five sessions.

A lot of people would consider this extremely bad GM’ing. I do too, so this is why I left. Not because I sat there for three hours straight, merely watching other players have fun. Not because that I felt that the GM railroaded the shit out of the story. But because that he obviously put his need for “realistic” consequences over what would make the game more enjoyable.

Is punishing players bad? Hell yes! The GM is not there to punish players, he is there to make sure that everyone has fun. If his way of having fun is to ruin everything a player has worked on, then good riddance.


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About Undreren

I'm a university student from Denmark, currently taking my candidate degree in Mathematical-Economics. I have played pen & paper RPG's since 2004, but my interest for the phenomenon sparked about 3 years prior to that. I'm an amateur programmer and knows Java and Haskell as well as some rudimentary HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript.

4 responses to “Consequences vs. fun”

  1. Nifelhein says :

    I have the same feeling, right now my group is all suffering in the same game. We are all friends and we hardly get anyone new to the group, so it is harder to walk away from such games. It is a OWoD Werewolf game where we feel we don’t have any choice beyond fighting for anything and the metaplot and NPCs and the world is so set in stone we are there just to explore what it is, instead of change it. We are three sessions in and on the second everyone was already tired of it.

    I will talk about it to the GM, even though I don’t expect anything to change I prefer that to just cancelling the sessions until we play without him, the usual way we start new games and leave the bad ones behind.

    • Undreren says :

      Talking to your GM is always the best solution. Or at least it should be. When the group consists mostly of friends, it’s a lot easier though.

      In my experience, a lot of GMs take criticism extremely personal. In this group, I simply wanted to avoid a confrontation.

  2. Eva says :

    I’ve never been a fan of games that punish semi-arbitrarily. There’s a lot of the world that the GM knows but none of the players can know unless the GM chooses to let them in on the secret. When the GM punishes you for not knowing something secret that they refused to tell you (for example that Werewolf was so against demons he would ignore the fact that that particular demon saved his life), it’s not so much “realistic” as it is “arbitrary.”

    It’s trivial for a GM to keep a secret, which means it’s cruel and unnecessary for them to hurt you based on not knowing secrets you can’t know. It’s also pretty silly to chose to build a kind of “realism” that ignores what’s enjoyable for the players. We don’t generally keep reading stories about characters who have their agency snatched from them so they can be killed semi-arbitrarily… why would we play games like that? :/

    • Undreren says :

      I think you have a point here, with the realism vs. arbitrariness thing. I think the reason it feels so bad is because it feels pointless.

      Since every story is pretty much up to the GM to devise, the adversity can be arbitrary as well.

      I believe that character death should be meaningful in some way, that it should be a major turning point in the story. Killing characters just for the heck of it doesn’t produce a good story in my opinion.

      TL;DR: I wholeheartedly agree with you 🙂

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